The roads: Cortes Island roads have poor pavement. It’s 100% chipseal, and not well maintained. The roads are friable at the edges, and have unexpected potholes. The roads generally are narrow: not only is there no shoulder, in many places, considering that the edges have crumbled, there aren’t really two whole lanes. On the road from the ferry terminal to Manson’s Landing, there is a faded yellow stripe, that appears and disappears in a half-hearted sort of way.
The roads are also incredibly steep in places. I believe that they do not have the money to build or maintain bridges except in the direst of places, so roads descend down terrible slopes and then swoop up again; whereas in other places, maybe they’d just put a bridge across the gully.
The upside of Cortes, though, is that there is basically no traffic. I probably would see, coming either direction, on the average of 10 cars/hour. And it is so incredibly quiet on Cortes, you can hear a car coming for at least 20 seconds before it appears, plenty of time to move to the side of the road.
And the drivers that you do see on Cortes are the greatest. Everyone waves to you – and with all five fingers! Everyone is patient. No one is in a hurry, because, really, where is there to go to?
So, what you do is you aim your bike where the road surface is the best, often right down the middle. When you come down one of these steep hills, you’re hanging on to your handlebars for dear life, as the vibration from the chipseal and imperfections in the pavement keep shaking them out of your hands. Then, you go swooping up the other side, pedalling like mad, hoping you’ll make it up some portion of the hill. Gravity only takes you so far, though, and soon you’re grinding your way up in the granniest of granny gears.
I will now proudly state that I never dismounted and walked my bike up any of the hills on the island. YMMV. I didn’t know that I could bicycle at less than 3.5 mph and still keep it upright – did you?
Another upside of Cortes is that there are no dogs. You can hear them barking, but I never was chased down by a single dog. woohoo on that.
A big downside of Cortes is that there are very few services. I ran out of water on my Whaletown ride. Oh well! If you’re going to bike on Cortes, bring food and water with you – do not think that the cafe marked on your tourist map will be open (maybe just in the summer tourist high season?)
A cool thing about Cortes Island is that someone has planted daffodils along the roadsides. So, as you cycle along, you often see these cheerful yellow flowers. Sometimes they are planted in rotting trees stumps, so they are quite visible, at eye level.
The Cortes Island website has more information about the island.over 6 years ago